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By: Carmel Loise Matus, Jose Santino S. Bunachita, Nestle L. Semilla August 25,2016 - 11:57 PM

(Illustration by TONEE DESPOJO)

(Illustration by TONEE DESPOJO)

Close to 70 city and barangay officials of Team Rama are poised to join the administration party Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) except for one crucial concern: is former Cebu City mayor Michael Rama in or out?

At least two Team Rama stalwarts, Councilors Raymond Garcia and Jose Daluz III, confirmed to Cebu Daily News that they were invited and are set to take oath as PDP-Laban members in the mass oath-taking of new party members set in Cebu on Saturday.

The Team Rama councilors, however, hesitated because they needed to know first if they could bring Mike Rama into the party, knowing that President Rodrigo Duterte has named him as an illegal drugs protector.

Some of the councilors were now in direct talks with Senate President Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, who heads PDP-Laban, and House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez to thresh out issues that could block Rama’s inclusion in the party.

Garcia, on the other hand, confirmed he is in talks with Presidential Assistant for the Visayas Michael Dino to give them a direct line to President Duterte, the standard-bearer of PDP-Laban in the last elections.

Asked why they felt the need to join the ruling party, Garcia pointed out that the President has actually no political allies from among the elected officials in Cebu, specifically in Cebu City.

“I believe (that) in order for us to be able to implement most if not all of his projects for the good of Cebu, (there should be a) a local arm that can help him. So that’s basically my number one reason,” he said.

He noted that even Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, who claimed to be a friend of the President, is not politically allied with Duterte; neither is Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III, a stalwart of the Liberal Party.

He also pointed out that Dino appeared to be “not in good terms” with Osmeña.

They (Dino and Osmeña) are not friends but they are not also enemy,” he added, which means, he said, Osmeña has no direct line to Malacañang.
Garcia said that he, on the other hand, is “close” to Dino.

TEAM RAMA when it was just still Team Rama. In this photo, taken on May 3, 2016,  then Cebu City mayor Michael Rama led the dancing while campaigning with his  party mates. (CDN FILE PHOTO)

TEAM RAMA when it was just still Team Rama. In this photo, taken on May 3, 2016, then Cebu City mayor Michael Rama led the dancing while campaigning with his party mates. (CDN FILE PHOTO)

Cebu City Councilor Jocelyn “Joy” Pesquera, in a separate phone interview, said that they were yet to come up with a party decision on the matter.

“I don’t have direct knowledge as to who initiated (the talks of taking oath with PDP-Laban). There were talks about the possibilities. In a way, it will be an advantage if we are with the administration. But for me, I always stand for principles,” she said.

However, she also pointed out that there was also a chance that they would not have to affiliate themselves with the national party right away since the parties in the national level work differently with that of the local party.

She added that supporting President Duterte does not have to mean that they have to be in the same party as long as there is respect and support for his programs.

“But we still have to discuss all of these. It’s not a good thing that I will be the one to say. What’s important is that whatever will come out, it will be a party decision,” Pesquera said.

As of 10 p.m. last night, Team Rama members were still in a meeting on whether or not they would proceed with joining the new ruling party without Rama.

The former city mayor, when reached by phone, declined to comment except to say that Team Rama was still in a meeting.

According to Garcia, Rama was actually already set to join PDP-Laban and was even invited to the State of the Nation Address (Sona) of President Duterte last July.

However, negotiations came to halt after his name appeared in the list of so-called narco politicians that was furnished to the President by the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA), which Duterte subsequently announced to the public.

Daluz, on the other hand, disclosed that Vice Mayor Edgardo Labella and the Team Rama councilors, except for Pastor Jun Alcover Jr., want to join PDP-Laban.

Labella also confirmed the discussions about the party shift but claimed he was not privy to the discussions on the possible taking of oath with PDP-Laban.

But Daluz said it was Labella who first got an invitation from PDP-Laban who, in turn, asked Team Rama members to join in as well.

Daluz, in a letter he received from Labella, was informed that the mass oath-taking would take place on Aug. 27 at 6:30 p.m. at the Molave Function Room of the Cebu Country Club.

“Should you wish to attend and participate therein, I have attached hereto the following documents furnished by the Office of the Presidential Assistant for the Visayas: 1. Memorandum No. MC2016-03 outlining the Membership Guidelines of PDP LABAN 2. An application for membership form for you to accomplish and submit during the said event,” said the Aug. 25 letter signed by lawyer Mary Rose Salvatierra, the executive assistant of Labella.

Team Rama was allied with the United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) bannered by defeated presidential candidate and former vice president Jejomar Binay. But both Garcia and Daluz said they found nothing wrong with joining PDP-Laban since they were not members of UNA.

Alcover, a vocal critic of Duterte during the campaign, said he would continue to be a Team Rama member even if his partymates would push through with joining PDP-Laban tomorrow.

“I just need to be consistent. . . . I am with Team Rama, I’ll support whatever their political move. But I just want to be consistent on my advocacy.

Advocating due process of law and consistent on rule of law,” Alcover said, explaining why he would not want to join Duterte’s party.

Quisumbing, too

Local stalwarts of other national parties were, meanwhile, also expected to jump ship to the ruling party.

Mandaue City Mayor Luigi Quisumbing as well as his ally councilors are expected to take their oath before PDP-Laban although he refused to give details.

“We will have an announcement tomorrow (today),” he said in a phone interview when asked about their plan to shift parties.

Quisumbing ran under LP and strongly supported the presidential bid of LP’s Mar Roxas. During the campaign season, Roxas always made sure to drop by Mandaue City for his sorties.

Sought for comment, outgoing Cordova Vice Mayor Adelino Sitoy, a staunch Duterte supporter even if he is a member of LP, said he was not aware of the discussions.

Sitoy took a leave of absence from LP and actively campaigned for the presidential bid of Duterte during the last elections.

Sitoy has been recently appointed as presidential adviser on legislative affairs.

There have also been talks among other mayors in Cebu province to shift allegiance to PDP-Laban after Cebu congressmen already took their oath as ruling party members.

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TAGS: Cebu, Cebu City, Jose Daluz III, Michael Rama, Mike Rama, party, PDP Laban, politics, Raymond Garcia, Team Rama

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